Friday, November 16, 2012

I'm afraid of doing what God says.

Goals. Plans. Dreams. They all say a lot about who we are, and who we want to be. We come up with something we want to do or be and then set out to take the steps we believe we need to take to get there. Unfortunately we don’t always have it right.

What do you do when something you had worked so hard to make happen doesn’t happen? I know I have had a variety of responses in my life. I have fought, kicked, and screamed. I have given up. I have held on tight to my ideal in disbelief. I have worked hard to release my grip. All of these reactions and more have passed through my actions at one time or another during my life time. But what should we do? When we are faced with an alternate we didn’t imagine, or couldn’t imagine, or just the opposite of what we imagined, what do we do?

The Israelites did what they thought they should do when they were faced with a prophet telling them to do something else. They packed the people, and Jeremiah, up and took them to Egypt. They thought that was safest. They thought they would thrive there. They thought Jeremiah had lied to them. But all they wanted to do was what they wanted to do.

How often are we like that? No Jeremiah to direct us so clearly, and yet the Israelites didn’t hear, why do we think we would have? We would have turned our back as well, and we have many times. When the promotion didn’t come through, when people disappointed us, when goals weren’t achieved we fought hard for what we thought we should have. Well, I have.

I was mad and angry and upset. I was trying to walk it out the best I could, but I was a mess. I had been hurt, and things didn’t go as I thought they should. So I got upset, and behaved in a way where I tried to control the extent of my hurt. I cut before they could. Did it save me any hurt? No. If I had walked what God told me to walk would I have been saved any hurt? Possibly not. But then I wouldn’t have hurt others. I hurt others and I am the only one to take the blame for that.

I have to learn from the Israelites and myself. God has a plan for me. If I listen closely to my heart I know what it is because the Holy Spirit is in there whispering. Sometimes it’s hard, and all times I have to give up control, but when I do I then simply trust God with the outcome.

Simply. It’s not. It’s hard and difficult and sometimes it makes you think you are doing something stupid, foolish, or dangerous. Letting go of the control we think we have, letting go of thinking we know the right way to do something, is not easy. But it’s worth it when we grasp hold of the One who knew our days before we were born.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The fear of not being in control

Jeremiah 42:11
Do not be afraid of the King of Babylon, whom you now fear.
Do not be afraid of him, declares the Lord, for I am with you
and will save you and deliver you from his hands.

The exiles were scared, and so were their leaders. They wanted to run from the danger which they would surely meet if they stayed where they were. The leaders were trying to do the right thing; the logical thing; the thing which made sense. They were scared Jeremiah didn’t speak for God for the word which came from the prophet did not agree with what they thought was best.

Jeremiah warned the leaders not to go to Egypt. This information alone should have told them he was the real thing. They had not told the prophet of their plan, but God had. But what is this to us? We have no prophet to ask questions of. Prophets are not as they once were, and God speaks to us in many ways now, but there is much for us to learn in this story.

Sometimes we are as the leaders were. We find ourselves so sure of the right path we are no longer looking for direction. Instead we are looking for validation. We ask God what we should do, because we know we should, but we expect him to agree with us. Unlike Gideon who searched for God’s answer to be sure of God’s answer, the leaders looked for God’s answer to validate their own. Our hearts think we know best.

Then we are faced with information that sits opposite of what we originally thought. What do we do then? When the answer is not as we expect do we continue on like a steam engine, or do we stop and reassess? It is normal to get off course. It is expected to turn the wrong direction. What is not normal or expected is to not turn aside once God corrects your course.

Question 1: Are you in a situation where you are looking for validation of a decision you have already made? This is dangerous territory because we forget we don’t know it all. When you find yourself so focused on one course or action, regardless of what anyone else says, it may be time to step back and reassess.

Question 2: Do you trust God to be right? When things seem scary, evil, or wrong do you still keep walking in the way He calls your heart? Moses is a prime example of someone who walked with God and still had hurdles to climb. When things seem their worst we either turn inwards and try to depend on ourselves or turn towards God and depend on Him. Which way are you going?
Dear Heavenly Father
Forgive us for our doubt
Help us to trust you more
When things don’t make sense
Remind us You know more
Than we ever could imagine

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Leaders' Fear

The King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, had taken some of the Israelites into Babylon to live as servants and slaves of the king, yet he assigned Gedaliah to be the governor of the area taking care of the poorest Israelites who remained in Judah. When he is assassinated by Ishmael the remaining leaders fear Nebuchadnezzar’s revenge on those who remained.

jeremiah 42 11

They remained frozen in their circle as they discussed the safest choice to make. They felt responsible for the remnant and knew they had to be moved to safety. Where was safety in the land where they had already lost so many people? Where was safety when the King would surely exact revenge? And yet, someone asked the question they didn’t want to acknowledge. It was most likely a woman, or child, or a man who didn’t understand kings and wars. “What would God want us to do?” The leaders knew the correct path was to Egypt where safety waited. But now that the question had been asked, they had to ask the question.

“Please hear our petition and pray to the Lord your God for this entire remnant. For as you now see, though we were once many, now only a few are left. Pray that the Lord your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do.”

Jeremiah had not always said things they wanted to hear, but he did claim to speak for the Lord. It was hard to trust a man who had been released by the Babylonian King, but they didn’t know where else to turn for the answer they looked for. If he really was a prophet they were sure they knew what his answer would be.

“I will certainly pray to the Lord your God as you have requested: I will tell you everything the Lord says and will keep nothing back from you.”

They waited. Surely the prophet would have heard by now. They waited longer. They wondered how many days would pass. Maybe he was no prophet. Maybe he would not return with an answer. What if he didn’t return with the right answer? Ten days later they got the answer they did not want.

“Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you now fear. Do not be afraid of him, declares the Lord for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands.”

The leaders scoffed. Stay in the land of Judah where Nebuchadnezzar could find them so easily? It didn’t make sense. Surely Jeremiah was lying! Surely he was no prophet after all. They would do what they had set out in their heart to do originally and head to Egypt.

Jeremiah 42:11

Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you now fear. Do not be afraid of him, declares the Lord, for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands. (NIV)
Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you are now fearing; do not be afraid of him, declares the Lord, for I am with you to save you and deliver you from his hand. (NAS)
Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom you are fearful [with the profound and reverent dread inspired by deity]; be not afraid of him, says the Lord, for [he is a mere man, while I am the all-wise, all-powerful, and ever-present God] I [the Lord] am with you to save you and to deliver you from his hand. (Amplified)

fear - yare - fear, worship
deliver - nasal - to deliver, save, rescue
save - yasa - divine salvation has its focus on rescue from earthly enemies

Matthew Henry: be not afraid of him, for that fear will bring a snare; Thus has God provided to obviate and silence even the causeless fears of his people which discourage them in the way of their duty. ; In all our comfort we may read God's mercies. God will show them mercy in this, that not only the king of Babylon shall not destroy them, but he shall have mercy on them and help them settle, ; Whatever kindness men do us we must attribute it to God's kindness. He makes those whom he pities to be pitied even by those who carried them captive. ;  we will find the terror we run from when we disobey God.

Jamieson Fausset Brown: They consulted God, like many, not so much to know what was right, as wishing Him to authorize what they had already determined on, whether agreeable to His will or not.

Coffman's Commentary: Jeremiah revealed the prophetic word from God as doing the following things (1) It promised them security and salvation if they would obey. (2) It warned them against disobedience. (3) It emphatically commanded them not to go down into Egypt. (4) It warned them against self-deception of a heart which asks for guidance when it has already made its decision.